Can You Sell a House with a Sitting Tenant?

For private landlords, property is often their main or only source of income. If they purchased it with a mortgage, then the revenue from tenants ensures they can repay the loan and have some left over each month. If they own it outright, then the rent, minus maintenance costs, is pure profit. However, a landlord’s circumstances might change, prompting them to realise the value of the asset by selling it. This isn’t always straightforward, especially if they have a sitting tenant.

What Is a Sitting Tenant?

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A sitting tenant is someone who is in occupation of the property at the time of the intended sale. A tenancy can’t be instantly terminated at the will of the landlord, because tenants have rights protected by law. Depending on the type of tenancy, it can take several months to remove the tenant in order to offer vacant possession to a purchaser. However, it isn’t always necessary to do this.

If the landlord is selling to another landlord, for example, there is a clear benefit in the new owner inheriting a tenant because the property will earn them money from the moment it is transferred to their ownership. On the other hand, the purchaser might prefer vacant possession but still agree to the purchase for a lower price. This would apply if the landlord needs a very quick sale and doesn’t have the time to go through the statutory procedure for eviction of the tenant. In rare cases the tenant might have an assured tenancy, which makes the eviction process very difficult, but there have no new assured tenancies for over 20 years, so the chances of encountering this problem are low.

Can You Sell a Property with a Sitting Tenant?

Yes. The tenant is the occupier but has no rights of ownership and cannot prevent the sale. As long as both buyer and seller are content with the situation the sale can proceed. The only real restriction is the one we’ve touched on above. If the new owner wants the property as their main home, they won’t be interested in buying it with a tenant in situ. The pool of potential buyers will therefore be limited to landlords and other investors. While there are some 15 million homeowners in the UK, there are only 2.65 million landlords, so you should be prepared for a sale with a sitting tenant to take longer than if you can offer vacant possession.

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If you choose to go down this route, you’ll need to find a conveyancer who can handle the complication of sitting tenants efficiently. It’s not a common situation, so it’s a good idea to use a concierge service such as Sam Conveyancing, which acts as a one-stop shop with access to conveyancers who have the appropriate experience. A national concierge service can direct you to precisely the practitioner you need in a localised area. For example, if you’re looking for the best conveyancing solicitors in Rugby, a fairly small but very popular market town in Warwickshire, you don’t have to rely on Google searches. The same applies wherever you are.

When you have a knowledgeable, supportive conveyancer on board they will be help you help you explore all the options. They may not be able to speed up an eviction, but they can help you get the best outcome within that limitation by selling on the open market or at auction. Many landlords are registered with estate agents specifically to find rental properties. For them a sitting tenant is not a problem. There is always a solution.

Roger Walker

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